14ymedio, Havana, November 19, 2021–Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara reaffirmed that he “would not, under any circumstances, accept exile as an option” to leave Cuba, as he made known to art curator Claudia Genlui Hidalgo, following a visit from his family at the prison where he has been held since the July 11th nationwide protests.
However, the leader of Movimiento San Isidro (MSI), to which Genlui also belongs, continues expressing “his willingness to leave the country to participate in artistic and residence programs which had already been planned and in which he had committed to participate.”
Genlui’s clarification comes a few weeks after it became known that the Cuban Government intended to remove Otero Alcántara from the Island as part of the negotiations announced by Tania Bruguera, and which facilitated the exit of artists Hamlet Lavastida and Katherine Bisquet, who traveled to Poland after Lavastida was released from prison in exchange for exile.
“Yesterday, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara’s family was able to visit him in Guanajay, a maximum-security prison, where he remains since July 11th, accused of the alleged crimes of aggravated assault, public disorder, and instigation of a crime,” wrote Genlui on her Facebook page. “He is also charged with offending patriotic symbols, a charge imposed last year for his work Le drapeau,” she added.
His family also communicated to Genlui that “he is well, plays sports and is in good spirits, though he is very worried for Maykel Castillo’s health, of which he was informed at that moment.”
Furthermore, she said the artist was well-informed of all that had occurred on the Island in the last few days and “reaffirmed his commitment to the Cuban people.” “Movimiento San Isidro continues to track him and all political prisoners,” she concludes.
One of the family members who visited him relayed to 14ymedio that Otero Alcántara maintains his same convictions. “Not for a moment did he appear to be lost or that the events he is experiencing have changed his view, not at all.” The source also noted that visits to the prison will occur every two weeks.
While Otero Alcántara has been jailed, he contracted COVID-19 and between September and October, was on a hunger and thirst strike for several days to demand his release and that of all political prisoners, according to a statement from MSI.
The activist has been detained on numerous occasions since 2018, though the repression against him escalated in November 2020 when he initiated a hunger and thirst strike along with several activists to demand the release of rapper Denis Solís. It ended when the police rushed Movimiento San Isidro’s headquarters in Old Havana on November 26th, where members of the group were entrenched, and arrested 14 activists who were inside the building.
Toward the end of April, Otero Alcántara declared once again a hunger and thirst strike to demand an end to the police siege at his home. State Security entered his home in the middle of the night and transported him to Calixto García Hospital, where he remained without explanation for a month in the custody of security forces. On that occasion, Amnesty International declared him a “prisoner of conscience”.
Translated by: Silvia Suárez
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